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#2020APPAM Blog: LGBTQI+ Well-Being


by Walt Ecton,Vanderbilt University Education PhD Student.

Following the release of a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Understanding the Well-Being of LGBTQI Populations, Kitt Carpenter led a robust conversation with Lee Badgett, Andrew Flores, Kellan Baker and Kenne Dibner, who shared key findings and take-aways from the report.

A common theme throughout panelists’ comments was that while substantial progress has been made in both research and policies affecting Sexual and Gender Diverse populations, there remains a great deal of work to achieve equality across a broad range of sectors. 

Sexual and Gender Diverse populations (a phrase used by the report to be both inclusive and to avoid minoritizing populations) still face discrimination in housing and employment, higher rates of violence and homelessness, physical and mental health disparities, and higher rates of bullying within K-12 schools. While many legal protections and policies have changed in recent years, structural and social stigmas remain. Inequalities and gaps in legal protection vary within Sexual and Gender Diverse populations, with people of color, transgender people, and other marginalized groups facing even greater levels of inequality and harmful discrimination. 

Panelists also discussed several recommendations from the report, most of which involved data collection and use. As a starting point, the report encourages agencies and researchers to collect more data on sexual orientation and gender identity, as the lack of questions on major studies like the Current Population Survey or the American Community Survey limits the questions that can currently be answered by researchers. 

They expressed hope that a new federal government administration may reinstate data collection efforts that been paused in recent years, and also recommended federal guidance from the Office of Management and Budget on how to ask questions about gender identity and sexual orientation, in order to align data collection throughout the government. As panelists expressed, several new research agendas (and subsequent policy changes) have resulted from the simple inclusion of questions about gender identity and sexual orientation on surveys, making this a key step for any researcher engaged in data collection.  While more data is certainly needed, panelists also encouraged researchers to use data that already exists, even when imperfect or using outdated terminology. 

The Super Session closed with a conversation about internal deliberations and disagreements that occurred as the committee prepared their report. First, committee members at the National Academies were guided by a principle that no person’s humanity should ever be up for debate. Panelists also noted that while there may be a wide range of competing opinions regarding policies facing Sexual and Gender Diverse Populations, the positions that are based in evidence-based research do not always receive the most attention in the media and popular conversation. The committee encouraged greater attention on evidence-based research to inform policy, which formed the basis of their report and recommendations. 

The full report, Understanding the Well-Being of Well-Being of LGBTQI Populations, can found here:​opulations.

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